Deville - The People's Marx (1893)

Introductory Note

Natural science made great advances about the middle of this century. It changed our way of looking at all subjects. The great change is this. We now look upon all things as growths or developments from former things. This gives to all branches of thought and science a continuity that enables us to trace their development in the past, and, within limits, to predict their continued development in the future. This idea of growth, development or descent, together with the idea of the struggle for existence, constitute the modern doctrine of evolution.

Now, this doctrine of continuous growth or descent had been applied to political and social institutions a hundred years ago by England's greatest statesman, Edmund Burke. But few understood Burke then, just as few understand him now, and so this principle had little effect upon thought on social, economic, and political questions, until the middle of the century when Karl Marx and Frederick Engels applied it to economics and sociology with tremendous power in their epoch-making Communist Manifesto, published in 1848.

Karl Marx was born of Jewish parentage in Treves, Prussia, in 1818, and enjoyed the best educational advantages that Europe could afford, studying at Jena, Bonn, and Berlin. As a result of the revolutionary movements of 1848-9, he was expelled from Prussia and refused a refuge in France. Soon after, he settled in London and for eight years served as London correspondent Of the New York Tribune.

He availed himself of the opportunities afforded by the British Museum and other great libraries and collections to make a profound study of political economy and the economic history of England. The result of this study we have in CAPITAL, the greatest work on economics ever produced. The baldest statement of the merits of this work by one familiar with it, must seem the most extravagant hyperbole to those who know it not.

The first volume is often spoken of as "the Bible of the working-class," and certain it is that those who become familiar with this "Bible," in its extended form, must work, for it is long and requires the closest attention and most careful study, but this work is well repaid. This labor-time includes no surplus-labor-time.

The need for a popular abridgement of this volume ha long been keenly felt. The late Dr. Aveling attempted to supply this want in "The Student's Marx," a work which in the judgment of many competent critics surpasses in difficulty anything that Marx himself ever wrote.

The epitome, here translated, was published in Paris, in 1883, by Gabriel Deville, possibly the most brilliant writer among the French Marxians. it is the most successful attempt yet made to popularize Marx's scientific economics. It is by no means free from difficulties, for the subject is essentially a complex and difficult subject, but there are no difficulties that reasonable attention and patience will not enable the average reader to overcome.

There is no attempt at originality. The very words in most cases are Marx's own words, and Capital is followed so closely that the first twenty-five chapters correspond in subject and treatment with the first twenty-five chapters of Capital. Chapter XXVI corresponds in the main with Chapter XXVI of Capital, but also contains portions of chapter XXX. The last three chapters—XXVII, XXVIII, and XXIX—correspond to the last three chapters—XXXI, XXXII, and XXXIII—of Capital.

Marx's scientific theory is fully expounded in this epitome, but the facts—facts drawn from English official sources, Blue-books, Reports of Factory Inspectors, etc.—on which this theory rests are necessarily omitted.

In many economic works this would not be an important omission. In this case, it would be difficult to overstate its importance; for in Capital the theory and its fact-foundation are so thoroughly blended that the theory is but the subjective side of the facts, and the facts the objective side of the theory.

Therefore, this epitome is in no sense a substitute for Capital itself. It is intended for those who have not the time, or it may be the patience and industry, to read Capital, and it is hoped that it may be the means of tempting many of them to read the book itself, for in this case, as in many others, the difficulties are far more formidable in the distance than when boldly faced at arm's length.

I am keenly conscious of the defects incident to every translation, which are all the greater in a scientific work like this, and I can only say I have done my best to make the book plain and clear and have never wittingly sacrificed lucidity to literary elegance or even to grammatical correctness. My only hope is that the book may serve to give the American reading public a juster conception of the philosophy of Karl Marx and of the principles and purposes of Modern Socialism.

Bound Brook, N. J., September 28, 1899.